Recently, at dinner a few of us “theater folk” were talking about the “Game of Thrones.” It was the night of the first episode of the third season. It is sacrilegious but I have not seen much of it, so I will spare you my “deep analysis” of the show. However, the “Game of Thrones” did spur a conversation worth having.
In the “Game of Thrones” the authors created a new world. Not representing any particular time or location. So why are all the actors white?
You would think a completely made-up world would be multicultural.
At BLT, whenever possible, we try to cast color blind. Some roles like those in the upcoming “Parsing Race” (May 17-26) which deal with race relations, must be cast in certain races, but most roles in a majority of shows, not so much.
I had just been lucky enough to see “The Joy Luck Club” at Tacoma Little Theatre. Over great food some of the actors from the show where telling me how hard it is, still, to be cast as a non-white in theater. When a director says, “I want the best person for the role,” but only casts Caucasians is that the truth or a justification? Really, the best actor is always a white actor? Keep in mind I am at a table with some very talented actors, all with the same troubling experience.
One of the things BLT does to at least try to change Caucasian casting is that BLT tries to pick scripts that either call for a multiethnic cast or where most roles can be cast without regard to race. (BLT also give preference to scripts with strong female leads and older female roles.) Then, BLT tries to impress upon the directors that BLT encourages color blind casting. It is not enough to put an Asian in a clearly Asia role or an African-American in a clearly African-American role. That is not color blind casting, it is just another form of racial casting. Casting, wherever possible, must be open to all. Not all directors listen, but those that don’t listen are not put on the short list of directors to be asked back.
I do not have to tell anyone that prejudice, you name the type, race, age, sexual preference, body type, is ubiquitous. Is a director who believes he or she is only “picking the best actor for the part” but always casts Caucasian a racist? You bet. But how to inform that director?
When I am in these conversations I always remember the words of a great American Jurist, Thurgood Marshall, who said, “I never once woke up and had to look in a mirror to see if I was still Black.”
That dinner party did not solve the dilemma of Caucasian casting, but it did rise the right questions.